Northern Ireland 2-0 Norway: Jamie Ward and Conor Washington strike in World Cup qualifying win
By Charlotte Marsh
Last Updated: 27/03/17 6:12pm
Northern Ireland continued their charge for the 2018 World Cup finals as they beat Norway 2-0 in their Group C match on Sunday evening.
It was a professional performance from Michael O'Neill's men, with Jamie Ward putting the hosts ahead inside two minutes before Conor Washington added the second just after the half an hour mark to net his third goal in three starts at Windsor Park.
Norway's best chance of the game came from a Havard Nordtveit free-kick in the 77th minute, as former Iceland coach Lars Lagerback lost his first game in charge.
But for Northern Ireland, they remain second in the group behind Germany on 10 points and two ahead of the Czech Republic in third at the halfway stage of the qualifying campaign.
It took 90 seconds for the hosts to take the lead as Chris Brunt's left-hand cross found Ward in the box, who got himself behind Even Hovland before curling home into the bottom corner.
Neither side had much sight of goal again until the 25th minute when goalkeeper Michael McGovern saved well from Josh King's swerving effort.
Two minutes later and Northern Ireland had a great chance to double their lead but Chris Brunt was unable to get on the end of Washington's fizzing cross into the box.
It came in the middle of a good spell for Norway, who went straight down the other end for a chance of their own, with Brunt failing to clear a ball into the box that fell to the feet of Alexander Soderlund, but he clattered his effort onto the crossbar.
However, the hosts did get their second goal in the 33rd minute after another fine piece of play. Captain Steven Davis spotted Washington along the offside line, sliding the ball through to the QPR striker and he burst forward before firing home through the legs of Norway goalkeeper Rune Jarstein.
Norway nearly got back into the game early in the second period as Nordtveit picked out King at the top of the box, with the Bournemouth man trying to fizz a cross into the path of Mohammed Elyounoussi but he could not poke it home as the ball ran wide.
With 73 minutes on the clock, Northern Ireland had their best chance of the second half as Brunt fired a long ball down the field that found Washington but his curling effort was blocked by Gustav Valsvik.
McGovern made his best save of the game with 13 minutes of normal time to play as Nordtveit took a free-kick that whistled under the Northern Ireland wall and forced the Norwich stopper into a fine save to push the ball around the post.
The remainder of the game saw a few half-chances for both sides, but Northern Ireland were never really troubled as they saw out the game to make it three wins and clean sheets in home World Cup qualifying matches during the current campaign.